It may not have a cliché name like the “City of Champions” or “Title Town,” but the city of Carthage, Texas, may just have to come up with one after the sporting year of 2019.
Between Carthage High School and Panola College, the city has a state and a national champion — and there were just as many other teams working hard to be their very best.
First and foremost for the year would be the Panola College Ponies, who captured the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming back in mid-June.
Led by freshman Daylon Swearingen’s win in bull riding, the Ponies captured the men’s CNFR national title at the Casper Events Center by a comfortable margin,
Swearingen, a Pifford, New York native who was named Rookie of the Year for winning the bull riding, had go rounds of 82 and 79 and was sitting second going into Saturday night’s short round. But leader Coby Johnson of Sheridan College failed to ride his bull for eight seconds, while Swearingen picked up 76 points and the win.
Teamate Ross Freeman finished 12th, only getting a score in the third go round; Tyler Johnson also made a jump in Saturday’s short round, going from fourth to a second-place finish with the second-best performance of the night (84).
The Ponies could have had another top three finish in the saddle bronc, but Logan Cook, who was second heading into Saturday night, failed to qualify and finished 10th overall. Cook also finished 29th in tie down roping, while teammate Macon Murphy finished 20th in the event.
The Ponies weren’t the only ones out of the area to make a name for themselves as Abi DePriest, a freshman at Carthage High, tied for the Texas State title in pole bending and represented the state in the 15th annual National Junior High Finals Rodeo June 23-29 in Huron, South Dakota.
She tied for the Texas title with one of her best friends, Lauren White of Singer, Louisiana, turning in the second-fastest round in pole bending at the state competition in Gonzales in late May.
She finished back in the pack out of roughly 1,000 contestants from 44 states, five Canadian provinces, Australia and Mexico, competing in the world’s largest junior high rodeo.
Long-term goals have her competing some day for the Coach Jeff Collins and the Panola College Fillies.
Another individual who fared well on his own was Carthage High’s Miller Harris, who won the regional title in golf and then finished third overall at the state meet.
Boys basketball and baseball both captured district titles at Carthage and made playoff runs; the boys cross country team traveled to the state meet and girls softball and basketball teams were in the playoffs as well.
Volleyball was the word in the fall as the Carthage Lady Dawgs set a school record for wins (41-5) and advanced to the state tournament for just the second time in school history.
Their win in the regional semifinals against Splendora may be one for the ages as they fell behind by two sets, fought back to tie it up and then came from behind one more time in the fifth set to set the win.
A Saturday sweep earned them the trip to state and earned co-MVP honors for Cami Hicks and Kristen Sheridan, while sophomore Faith Kruebbe picked up all-tournament honors.
Coach Dawn Stewart was in her second year as head coach for the team.
That wasn’t the same case at Panola College, as Nicole Thorn returned to the school after coaching there several years ago and returned when her sister left to take a Division I job at Louisiana Tech.
The Fillies had to fight their way out of the loser’s bracket at the conference tournament in Tyler, grabbing the No. 2 spot and qualifying for the NJCAA Volleyball Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas in late November for the fourth time in team history.
Top players on the team included All-American MiKayla Ware, Beckville’s Riley Seegers, Kylena Testoni, Ashton Brown and Nyah Walker.
For the last several years, however, football is sport by which all other sports are measured.
How far did your football team go?
The team from CHS went pretty far last year, advancing all the way to the state semifinals before falling. That denied the Dawgs a 3-peat and left a bitter taste in their mouths from the top of the program to the bottom.
Letting it happen two years in a row was not an option when the team reported back in August, even though a 1,000-yard rusher, an all-state quarterback and several other key players had to be replaced.
They had a lot of hard workers, among them 32 seniors who played 60 of 62 possible games during their careers.
They had a defense that allowed them time to replace those players and they used the time well, usually giving up just one score from the starters and left little doubt that these were the same type of Bulldogs who had worn the crown in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2017 and now 2019.
They’re dropping down in school size next year, so they can’t technically “defend their title.”
But make no mistake about it, the Dawgs will be out for eight in 2020.